Tow truck bylaw 'inconsistent' with provincial law, court rules

The Region of Waterloo says it will review a recent decision by an Ontario court that says the bylaw that keeps tow trucks 200 meters away from an accident scene unless they've been called there is 'inconsistent' with the Highway Traffic Act.

Tow trucks can 'assist the preservation of the scene and safety' of people, court rules

The Region of Waterloo says it will review a recent court decision that says its bylaw that keeps tow trucks 200 meters from an accident unless they've been called to it is 'inconsistent' with the Highway Traffic Act. (The Canadian Press)

The Region of Waterloo is reviewing a recent court ruling that says its bylaw that keeps tow trucks 200 metres from an accident unless they've been called there is "inconsistent" with part of the Highway Traffic Act.

The region put this bylaw in place in May 2018. Court documents show a tow truck driver was charged for being too close to an accident scene on Sept. 20, 2018 in Kitchener.

The driver, identified in court documents as Jasreet Singh Pahal of Able Regional Towing and Recovery, offered his services to a woman who had rear-ended another vehicle. He had not been called to the scene by police or anyone involved. Another tow truck that had been called by the driver who was rear-ended, was on scene.

After he was ticketed, Pahal argued he was allowed to be at the scene under the Highway Traffic Act and in a ruling released Jan. 30, justice of the peace James Ziegler agreed.

The region argued the bylaw "supplements" the Highway Traffic Act, but Ziegler said in his findings that, instead, the bylaw excludes tow trucks from attending emergencies.

"The permission to tow truck operators to offer service in emergencies under section 177 is paramount province wide and is binding on the region," he wrote.

As well, he noted that if a tow truck driver were to come upon a scene, they couldn't get out to see if people need assistance without contravening the bylaw.

"This conflicts with the general exception for emergencies" under the Highway Traffic Act, Ziegler wrote.

"If a tow truck was first on the scene, this could assist the preservation of the scene and safety of the affected parties, particularly until the police and other emergency services arrived," he wrote.

Region to consider options

In light of the ruling, Kris Fletcher, director of council and administrative services for the region, says they will review the decision and consider options.

"At this time no decisions have been made on next steps," Fletcher said.

Waterloo regional police Const. Ashley Dietrich said tow truck drivers should still keep their distance if they're not called to an accident.

"Since the bylaw is still in place and seen as an enforceable piece of legislation, tow truck drivers, if found within the range of 200 meters from any collision, will be charged until the legislation changes," Dietrich said.

'Safe and fair' for public

Al Pinheiro is president of the Waterloo Region Towing Association, which is made up of some local tow truck businesses.

He says the association has no issues with the bylaw as it currently stands because the businesses have all agreed not to race to the scene of an accident to get there first.

"The last thing that the driver needs to be worried about is who's towing their vehicle. They might have some injuries. You have to let EMS and fire [department] do their job," he said.

Having tow truck drivers talking to the people involved "delays the work that the EMS and fire have to do."

He says tow truck drivers should hold back and be as co-operative as possible, even though they're in a competitive industry where they are paid only when they can tow someone.

Pinheiro says he's heard from local emergency officials who get frustrated when tow trucks are parked at the scene of an accident and in the way of ambulances or fire trucks.

He said the association has a code of ethics they must abide by and if there is a complaint against a tow truck operator, if they're part of the association the association investigates it. If it is revealed a person paid too much for a tow, they're reimbursed, Pinheiro said.

"At the end of the day, the customer still has the last say" in who tows their vehicle, he said. "We just want it to be safe and fair for everyone involved, mainly the public."


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